Alternative Treatments for Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms

Tuesday, April 30, 2019, 10:00 AM

April is IBS awareness month. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is a common gastrointestinal disorder affecting 13% to 20% of Canadians.

People who suffer from IBS often have chronic symptoms including abdominal pain, bloating, indigestion, and bowel function irregularities. Despite being a widespread issue among Canadians, there is no known cause of it or cure for IBS.

85% of IBS sufferers reported that their symptoms were bothersome and had a negative impact on their overall life. There are many ways to treat the symptoms associated with IBS, including dietary changes, stress reduction, and different medications.

Alternative options for treating the symptoms of IBS are also very effective. This blog will outline some holistic ways you can ease your IBS symptoms.

Yoga for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

One of the most common triggers of IBS is stress. Stress causes the body to go into a state of survival, triggering the fight-or-flight response. This response slows down or stops digestion, diverting the body's energy to the situation causing stress.

Stress can also speed up the digestive system and cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, and other symptoms.  Yoga helps calm stress by calming the nervous system, making it effective in calming IBS-related symptoms.

Different yoga poses and sequences can also help relieve discomfort associated with IBS. Poses like seated twists or backbends can help relieve constipation by putting pressure on abdominal organs.

Yoga back bend on a terrace overlooking a city.

Learning how to breathe through your symptoms and accept them in a mindful way may actually help reduce them, instead of them causing you to be more anxious and, as a result, have worse symptoms. Focussing on the breath instead of your symptoms may also help to take your mind off of them.

Yoga can bring a greater sense of awareness to your body and help you identify symptoms associated with IBS.

Stress Reduction and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

People who suffer from IBS often suffer from stress, anxiety, or another type of psychological disorder. While it is unclear just how IBS and stress are related, it is clear that they often happen together.

The gut contains some 100 million neurons, which is more than the spinal cord or peripheral nervous system. What this means for your digestion is that the neurons in your gut can be just as affected by stress and anxiety as the neurons in your brain and the rest of your body.

Since your gut contains so many neurons, it's no wonder people who suffer from chronic stress also suffer from IBS-related symptoms.

Clinical studies found that the correlation between stress, anxiety and depression, and IBS is strong. Stress levels can range from 40% to 60% and can be as high as 80% when the severity of the psychological disorder increases. Finding ways to reduce stress is important to reducing symptoms associated with IBS.

Various holistic health practices, such as reiki and reflexology, promote a deep sense of relaxation. Massage therapy is known to reduce stress and anxiety by promoting relaxation.

Meditation is an effective way to manage stress because it promotes mindfulness and self-compassion. Lastly, exercise is an effective stress-reduction tool and can help lessen IBS symptoms.


Probiotics are live bacteria that are found in supplements or fermented foods like kombucha, kimchi, and yogurt. Clinical studies found that probiotic use relieved symptoms associated with IBS, such as abdominal pain, bloating, and bowel troubles.

IBS symptoms have been linked to possible changes in gut flora, such as higher or lower levels of both good and bad bacteria. Often people who suffer from IBS are experiencing an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestines.

Several studies have shown that some probiotics may help alleviate symptoms associated with IBS. Probiotics help to repopulate the gut with "good bacteria," which helps slow the growth of disease-causing bacteria.

Balancing gut flora helps reduce inflammation, reduce gas production improve the gut's sensitivity to gas build-up, and slow down bowel movements. This can help reduce the overall discomfort associated with IBS, as well as regulate bowel movements and reduce gas and bloating associated with IBS.

It is important to consult with your health care provider before trying probiotics or other digestive aids. Keep in mind that some probiotic supplements can contain ingredients that could worsen your symptoms, including oats, lactose, or fructose.

If these ingredients trigger your IBS symptoms, take the time to find one that does not contain these ingredients.

Essential Oils for Irratible Bowel Syndrome

There are various essential oils that can relieve the symptoms of IBS. Some popular choices include the following oils:

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil relieves nausea, indigestion, bloating and gas. It can also help reduce stress, which can be a trigger for IBS.

Cumin Oil

Cumin oil is anti-inflammatory. It and can help speed up digestion and relieve IBS-related constipation.

Ginger Oil

Ginger oil is well known for its anti-nausea compounds. It can reduce gas and act as a digestive aid.

Oregano Oil

Oregano oil is antibacterial and can help regulate the bacteria found in the gut.

Selection of essential oils on a shelf.

While essential oils can offer effective relief of IBS symptoms, they do carry potential safety risks due to their potency. It is important to use essential oils properly and only use the dose recommended by your health care provider. Do not ingest essential oils unless your health care provider recommends it.

Remember, it may take some trial and error to find the best solution for you. Consult with your health care provider before trying any of these suggestions to ensure you are following the best treatment for yourself.

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